Monday, 14 April 2014

Important Mail and Exam Study Tips

On March 31st I received that fateful envelope from the CSMLS letting me know I passed the General MLT Exam - officially making me a Medical Laboratory Technologist! I'm excited to be able to put another set of letters behind my name ;)

It's Good!

I'm sure my apartment mail man was annoyed at my stalking his van everyday and leaving work on my break to frantically drive home and check the mail. I honestly was overwhelmed with anxiety once I saw friends receiving their letters letting them know they passed! The next time I have to receive results by mail I'm going to move to that city so I can receive them faster (ok, maybe not) but I'm thrilled that I can finally say I am a Medical Laboratory Technologist!

Now for those of you writing in the near future you are probably thinking "shut up! get to the exam study tips!" And I will. But I want to put a disclaimer that you have to remember to take how you study into consideration. Some people prefer to study alone, some people like to write their own notes etc. You have to know you the best and structure your studying time wisely! First, I'm going to answer some questions I know I had before I started studying for the CSMLS exam.

When did you start studying?

It's tough to say when exactly I started studying but I *officially* started studying with my planned method every night January 10th for my exam on February 20th. I was in clinical from September 3rd - February 7th and during this time I took my notes with me to the lab and studied during downtimes as well as I studied occasionally at night.

What did you use as a study guideline?

Print this out, frame it, make copies of it, tape it to walls - whatever you need to do to know it. The CSMLS Exam Handbook has the exact percentages of what types of questions you can expect to see. Obviously it's not going to say "5 questions on Salmonella" but it does break down which concepts you can expect like QC, safety, transfusion application questions etc.

How did you structure your studying?

I laid out a calendar with what subject I would be studying each night per week. By January I knew which subjects I would need to be studying more than others. For me, Micro, Heme and Transfusion were my strong subjects (especially since I was ending my clinical on Transfusion) so I focused less on those topics and more on Chemistry, Histology, Lab Math and the Safety Manual.

Ensuring your studying is structured will help prevent yourself from getting too focused on one subject. You have to remember that the exam covers EVERYTHING and just because you might know one subject really well that doesn't mean you should forget the other ones. In the same vein, you have to sometimes decide what you can and cannot learn in that amount of time. I know I had to forgo reviewing some topics because it was a lost cause at that point.

Nifty Study Calendar
Nifty Study Calendar

I highly recommend getting yourself a small calendar, printing one off the internet or getting a small flip pad to keep yourself organized and on track. I picked up this little flip pad for $1 at Target and it was one of my best purchases!

What were your study techniques?

Again, this is what worked for me and may not work for you.

First, I consolidated my notes into my own words on study sheets. This is a patented "Krista" method (even my classmates know that's how I study) that I've been using since university and helps me digest more information quickly. I turn large PowerPoints into short form notes with key points I need to know rather than having to flip through the 107 slides per lecture we are given. This also makes me write out the information in my own words and hopefully helps it stick in my memory.

Second, I used cue cards to make small note books with testing information, reference ranges and even SHORTER versions of my study notes so I could carry a lot of information with me at once and use them as memory joggers. These were usefully as I got closer to the exam and just needed to refresh my memory or locate information quickly.

2 of my many cue card sets!
2 of my many cue card sets!

I also used the QUICK REVIEW CARDS (which are finally coming out with a new edition this year!). These things are magic and if you don't want to consolidate your notes yourself I highly highly recommend them. They really have almost everything you should need to study everything except Histology since they are US cards for the ASCP exam. I did a full in-depth review last year which you can check out on my blog!

Lastly, I studied with two classmates that I studied with during my 2nd semester of school via Google Hangouts. We all lived in different cities so doing it online was the best way and also allowed us to have all our notes with us without having to haul them to the library. I've talked about Google Hangouts before  and how I used them successfully to raise my grades and I'm a huge advocate for it.

We quizzed each other using our notes, quiz sets from Laboratory Review Books and, where you can play a free quiz game. Keep in mind LabCE is an American site so some of the questions are a little off but generally it's a pretty good tool.

It has been shown in many studies that quizzing helps you to retain information better than you would without quizzing. It's helping you to apply the knowledge you've learned and actually think about what you've read rather than just reciting it back. Another benefit to studying with others is they might have a stronger grasp on a concept than you and vice versa. You can help each other out and think of things in different ways which is only going to help you in the end!

At the end of all the studying when I got to the exam I felt very prepared and actually felt like I had *over-studied* some things. I was expecting questions on a few things that I didn't see but there was the occasional surprise as well! The one thing to keep in mind is that if you've made it through your entire program and through clinical you are almost all the way there of being prepared.  You know more than you think you know and with proper studying and time management you can pass the exam too!

Congrats to those who passed and good luck to those writing!

-Krista, B.Sc, MLT

(Sorry I had to!)


  1. Congratulations. Well done on making MLT Brilliant :-)

  2. Congratulations Krista! SO proud of you!

  3. Congrats on the MLT! I never had a doubt you wouldn't. :) Do you mind if I share your study tips with my students?

  4. No problem! Go right ahead. Anything to help out other future MLTs :)

  5. Congrats ! I'm about to write my exam in 10 days and I am freaking out ! Do you mind if I ask how in detail the exam is ? Any tips on calming my nerves ??! Thanks

  6. It's hard to explain how "detailed" the exam is. I found overall it was pretty general and didn't ask any nitpicky details but some subjects went more in depth than others. At this point you are so close you can't try to learn much more. I would just review general concepts and notes so you don't burn yourself out! Overall I found the exam much easier than I was expecting though. :)

  7. Thanks for your reply ! I sure hope it is easier than what I'm thinking because at this point I'm not even sure I can remember everything I've learnt lol.

  8. I think everyone feels that right before. If you are worried about forgetting a certain aspect, study it right before and write it on your scrap paper as soon as you go in!

  9. That would be writing down a lot ! I'm just having a hard time thinking I have everything I need to know in my head and not having an idea of how the exam is worded nor what I should be focusing on and in detail is making me feel ridiculously anxious :/

  10. Have you seen the three example questions on the CSMLS exam handbook? They are very very similar to that (at least I found)

  11. No I haven't. Where can I find those ? Thanks again for helping me out :)

  12. Email me :)

  13. Good karma in your battle for a free suitable government funded education for your youngster!


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